USA Swimming has announced that leading child neglect and abuse prevention expert Victor Vieth will conduct an independent examination of its Safe Sport program, established to protect athletes through education, training, and procedures to remove anyone who violates the code of conduct.
Vieth is the executive director of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, and according to a USA Swimming press release, his evaluation is set to include:
• a review of the USA Swimming Safe Sport program:
- Policies and guidelines
- Screening and selection
- Education and training
- Monitoring and supervision
- Recognizing, reporting, and responding
- Grassroots engagement and feedback
• a review of the Safe Sport website, handbook, and other printed program materials
• a review USA Swimming’s Code of Conduct
• a review of Safe Sport educational materials including online training, webinars, articles, and presentations
• Interviews with USA Swimming leadership, including volunteers and staff
• Interviews with individuals outside of USA Swimming.
“We thought it was time to do a performance review of how we're doing and how we could get better,” USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus told SwimmingWorld. “We weren't looking for an academic review. We wanted a review by an organization that had experience on the ground.”
USA Swimming, which has faced a number of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by coaches in the last several years, implemented the Safe Sport program in 2010. A 2012 status report on the progress of the program states “Since the program’s inception … USA Swimming has sanctioned 24 members for violations of Safe Sport related measures, 16 of whom have been banned for life.” But critics, including victims and their advocates, remain critical of USA Swimming’s efforts.
"USA Swimming is scrambling to hide decades of failed child protection policies," California lawyer Robert Allard, a representative for several of the alleged victims, told the Associated Press. "USA Swimming has hired a PR firm, lobbyists, and now a so-called child protection organization, all in an effort to show congressional investigators that it is genuinely concerned about child protection. The reality is that like the Catholic Church, USA Swimming is using similar strategies to cover up their sexual abuse scandals by punishing whistle blowers, rewarding enablers, and blaming the victims."
According to its website, The National Child Protection Training Center “promotes reformation of current training practices by providing an educational curriculum to current and future front-line child protection professionals around the nation so that they will be prepared to recognize and report the abuse of a child.” The staff has trained more than 40,000 child protection professionals nationwide.
Vieth’s report, expected in Jan. 2014, will be made available to the public.